Short, simple nature names are having a moment.
For girls, avian-inspired names like Lark and Wren are attracting attention.
For boys, coastal possibilities, like Cove and Reef are popping up.
Bay falls somewhere in between. It’s a water name, to be sure, fitting in with choices like Ocean and Sea. But Bay is also a stylish sound, heard in many a popular surname name.
In 2011, ABC Family’s series Switched at Birth debuted. It’s the story of two families who discover that their daughters are not their biological children. A hospital mistake sent the newborns home with the wrong mothers. The series is notable for its use of ASL – American Sign Language – as one of the switched daughters is deaf.
The writers chose truly lovely names for both girls. One daughter is Daphne Paloma. The other is Bay Madeleine.
The third season will premiere this month, and so I found myself thinking: are there any formal name possibilities? Does it work better for a boy or a girl? Turns out there are plenty of options.
Getting to Bay: Popular Choices
Bacon is great, but a non-starter as a baby name. And you could get to Bay from starts-with-Ba choices like Barrett. But there are plenty of other options already in the US Top 1000.
Bailey – Party of Five made Bailey a staple for boys, but this surname name has a longer history of use for girls. Today, it ranks #79 for Team Pink, with variant spellings Baylee, Bailee and Bayleigh also charting. It’s relatively rare for boys nowadays, but could still wear well on a son.
Baylen – Strictly speaking, this name isn’t in the Top 1000, much less the most popular names in the US. But it fits with the mix-and-match style of names – Jaylon and Kayden and so on. No one would be surprised to meet a Bailyn in 2014, though the most popular B variations add an -r – think of Brayden.
Getting to Bay: Surname Names
Baker – As occupational surnames goes, Baker is pretty sweet. With that great -r ending and the vibrant long a sound, Baker feels as wearable as Smith or Jones – and about as uncommon. Despite the rise of Hunter and Carter, Baker remains pretty rare.
Bayard – It’s the name of a magical horse in Old French legends, and the color of his coat – baie, or reddish-brown. It’s been in use as a surname and place name over the centuries, and as a given name, it has potential.
Baylor – The Texas university is named for its founder’s surname. It also feels like a smoosh of Bailey and Taylor. As institutions of higher learning go, it certainly makes for a wearable choice.
Getting to Bay: Other Options
Baden – The German spa town Baden Baden is pronounced more like cotton, making this an unlikely candidate for a formal name for Bay. Except that I think the long a pronunciation is more intuitive in English. You could add an -i or a -y to make the pronunciation clear. Or is this one more like Baylon and company?
Bae – I was so very excited to stumble on this one, a Korean name. Except it appears to be a surname. And the ae sounds like the a in bat. That should take Bae off this list, but let’s imagine you’re after a culture-spanning name. Would Bae work? I’m not sure, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Barbara – Is this saintly classic due for a comeback yet? Maybe not. But nickname options abound, from Barbie and Babs to – why not? – Bay.
Bayou – It’s a noun name from the natural world with a Cajun and Creole twist. I hear Creedence Clearwater Revival as soon as I see this name, and yet … in our age of River, why can’t we consider other bodies of water as given names?
What do you think of Bay as a given name? Would you use a formal option? Which one? And does it work better for a boy or a girl?
I would add
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I have a cat called Baylen 🙂 Its a great name, reminds me of Game of Thrones.
One of my favourite actors is the British actor Mathew Baynton. I wonder if Baynton would work as a full name for Bay.
Love this! My 3yo Bayard “Bay” gets so many compliments on her name all the time and I’m glad we named her before it showed up on more people’s radars. I’m hoping her new sister Marguerite “Maple” likes her name as much.
Bay also makes me remind of the Once Upon A Time character, Bae. I prefer it on a boy. But then, I also prefer Bailey on a boy – we should note that in the UK and Australia, its a far more popular choice for boys, and inside the top100 for several years now.
I didn’t know that about Bae, Allure – thanks! I saw the first few episodes of OUAT and really need to catch up …
And yes, I was actually blown away to see how completely Bailey had gone girl in the US. I think it wears so well on a boy – good to know that it is still wearable in the UK and Australia.
The Mrs. says
This is an interesting name! I agree with others that this might be a nice stand-alone middle name. And although some Tolkien-ites might loudly object, the name Balin appears in the Lord of the Rings (in the movies his name was pronounced BAH-lin, not BAY-lin), it might make a good longer name for Bay, too.
Bae, pronounced just like Bay, is a term of endearment, and “cooking for bae” has ruined this name for me- http://instagram.com/cookingforbae.
I know a Baia (sounds like Bay-ah), it doesn’t exactly stand out in a class full of Mayas and Baylees, but it’s another option.
The Yiddish girls’ name Baila/Beila/Bayla (transliterations vary) pops up again and again in my extended family/family tree.
A common legal name to use for it was Bella. Suggestions for recent babies (not 90+ year old women) is Baylee by some spelling or other. Bayla NN Bay would be truer to type and kinda pretty? Not sure. I keep getting told on forums it looks kreative or outright “effed up.” 🙁
Maybe just Bay as a middle name? It’s got that much-coveted 1-syllable rhythm. But it makes me think horses as much as water, and honestly if I’m just using a B name on the birth certificate to honour Bayla, I still love Belle and Blythe.
Sara A. says
Don’t listen to the people on the forums, they’re thinking about names as aesthetics. You’re naming a child based on what you like, what your husband likes, what works in your family, neighborhood, and city. If you love Bayla, use it. Personally, I’d go for the spelling Beila spelling, because it comes across best internationally. EI is pronounced AY in most Latin based languages, the AI spelling might get mispronounced “Bye-la.” I’d also speak to some real life people and float the name out. I know no one on here wants to talk names IRL, but you’re not going to get a real feel for the name on the internet.
On a personal note, I had that deep ambivalence when I was naming my daughter. I was trying to name for my grandma, Gertrude called Trudy. I didn’t really like Gertrude, but I was beginning to think that G was for God Awful with regards to girl’s names at least. So, I started to look at T names. Then purple names, because Grandma’s favorite color was lavender. Nothing felt right except Trudy. But Gertrude called Trudy, so she could have more nickname options, or plain old Trudy? All the while people on forums were heckling me about my fusty choices and I was getting it from my mother too and I was too scared to bring it up with my friends… So we named her Trudy and I haven’t heard a single negative thing about her name from anyone. Except my mother. Who still talks about how the name Grace would’ve been perfect. Just goes to show that you can’t please everyone.
Baila is a favorite name of mine, but spell it some way other than Baila. In Spanish Baila is pronounced Bye-luh and means “Dance!” as in “Baila! Baila!” I actually like Bye-luh to, but if you’re going for Bay-luh go with one of your other spellings!
I think Bayla/Baila/Beila works. I’m convinced that “it’s a family name” is the fastest way to shut down questions in real life. On forums? There is no way to stop people on forums from expressing their opinions, for better and for worse. And many baby name forums tend to push towards the middle.
I like Bay. I understand that Behati is pronounced with the Bay sound at the beginning and is on my short list.
According to forvo.com, Bayard is pronounced by-ard. So lit it in the “looks like” category as well. Not that it (and the others) can’t be a long form for Bay, there are lots of examples of a nickname not sharing the pronunciation of the formal version, like Sadie from Sarah.
Bayou, like Bae and Baden, only lends itself to Bay in looks, not sound. I don’t know how to pronounce Bayard, but it brings to mind another meaning of Bay, a coat color for horses. I think that’s my favorite, and would make a lovely choice for an equestrian family.
Just two days ago, a friend of mine named her little boy Baylon Nile. I had never heard the name Baylon/Baylen before, but I love Bay.
I love Nile in the middle spot!
I don’t see how Bayou could work. Isn’t it pronounced By-you?
I like Barbara.
Bay makes me think of the Baelfire character in OUAT.
It’s a stretch, but the vowel change does happen with some nns. Zane for Alexander, Coco for Colette, Davy for Davina, Kate for Katherine.